Monday, June 8, 2015

Anti-smoking legislation reduces serious respiratory tract infections in children

Maastricht: Anti-smoking legislation has led to a demonstrable reduction in the number of children being admitted to hospital with respiratory tract infections. This was shown in a study conducted by Jasper Been, paediatrician at Maastricht UMC+. The researcher, who also works at Edinburgh University and Erasmus MC, examined how anti-smoking legislation has affected child health in England. In order to study the effect of such measures, Dr Been has been granted a three-year personal subsidy from the Dutch Lung Foundation.
Children are particularly susceptible to respiratory tract infections during the first years of their lives. In most cases, symptoms are mild and resolve without treatment. It is nevertheless estimated that approximately 11.9 million children worldwide are admitted to hospital every year with serious respiratory tract infections. In fact, no less than 1.4 million children under five years of age die as a result of this medical condition. Involuntary (passive) smoking is one of the main risk factors associated with children developing lung disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is therefore calling for the introduction of stringent regulations and non- smoking zones in places of work and in public spaces. The study has therefore shown that adhering to the guidelines is clearly effective.

Fewer hospital admissions
Between 2001 and 2012, Been analysed a total of over one-and-a-half million hospital admissions related to a respiratory tract infection. Following implementation of the anti-smoking legislation in England on 1 July 2007, the percentage of children admitted due to a serious respiratory tract infection decreased by 3.5 per cent. The number of admissions decreased by a further 0.5 per cent per annum in the years that followed. ‘That may not sound like many’, said Been, ‘but in absolute numbers, the smoking ban prevents around 11,000 children a year ending up in hospital with an infection. The legislation therefore clearly provides immediate health benefits and also reduces healthcare costs.’

The situation in the Netherlands
There are smoking bans in places of work and in public spaces in almost all European countries these days, and yet these measures differ from country to country. Whereas the smoking policy in England is known to be stringent, legislation in the Netherlands prompted heated discussion with regard to its implementation in bars, restaurants and cafés. In order to examine the effect of Dutch anti-smoking legislation, the Lung Foundation Netherlands has recently granted Been a personal subsidy amounting to approximately €200,000. This will enable him to continue his research for another three years. Been: ‘The fact that having smoke-free areas benefits public health is now clear. Studies that confirm this further prove the importance of having – and maintaining – good anti-smoking legislation.’
The results of this study have been published today in the scientific journal European Respiratory Journal.